KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A once-famous reactor at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is in the process of being torn down according to a release from UCOR, Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management’s cleanup contractor

Known as Building 3005, the Low Intensity Test Reactor became world famous in 1951 when a photographer captured the blue glow caused by radiation in the pool above the reactor. The photo was the cover of the October 1951 issue of Scientific American. The reactor, built in 1951, operated until 1968 and plated a role as a training facility.

While it is not one of the largest reactor sites, the Low Intensity Test Reactor was built as a mock-up of the Materials Test Reactor that was being built at the Idaho National Laboratory.

In late March, the Oak Ridge Office of Environmental Management and UCOR began tearing down the reactor, according to the release. UCOR says Oak Ridge is set to complete the Environmental Management 2023 priority by the end of the year.

“We’re pleased to make headway on the removal of this old reactor facility, which is an EM priority for 2023,” said Nathan Felosi, ORNL portfolio federal project director. “Our progress is helping eliminate hazards and open land for reuse at ORNL.”

Crews working on the Low Intensity Test Reactor are working to take down ancillary facilities. UCOR said the goal is to demolish all the structures surrounding the reactor, remove and sample additional shield blocks to support waste disposal, and to tear down and package the reactor for transport and disposal.

Work is expected to continue through the spring and summer, with a completion date targeted later this year.

According to the release, the demolition began after five years of planning and deactivation work because of the “unique conditions associated with the facility.” UCOR said employees identified structural concerns with the facility that posed significant challenges. Specifically, as workers removed concrete shield blocks around the reactor, they found that slab floor structures were not supported adequately, which created a potentially unstable work environment.

“Great kudos to our workers in the field for discovering the structural concerns, pausing the work, and bringing it to the attention of our management team and engineers, allowing the project to remain safe,” said Dan Macias, ORNL site integration and cleanup manager.

The demolition on the Low Intensity Test Reactor comes on the heels of the neighboring Bulk Shielding Reactor’s demolition, which was the first removal of a former reactor from ORNL’s central campus area, the release states. According to a release from the Department of Energy, the reactor (Building 3010) demolition was completed around the beginning of November, 2022.